London over the past twenty-five years has in some areas undergone as dramatic a transition as Berenice Abbott recorded in Manhattan in the late 1920s. It is hardly surprising that many photographers (including some in this exhibition) have photographed extensively in these changing areas, particularly Docklands.
Change can bring to an end ways of life in city communities. Paul Mattsson's view of the racially mixed inner city life in Hackney's Well Street is a view of an endangered species, threatened by redevelopment and gentrification. Other urban photographers document new developments such as the appearance of a black-led 'Civil Rights' movement, or sub-cultures like the clubs haunted by Derek Ridgers, known to a wider audience for his photography in New Musical Express and elsewhere. His pictures record the wilder and odder modes of personal adornment which some find liberating, some decadent and some disgraceful.
Paul Trevor's work on people living in inner cities became well known in the 1970s and has influenced many who photograph in the city. One of the main themes in his photography has been children and their play.
Paul Baldesare takes us to the urban heart of the consumer temple, Oxford Street, an environment where we see close proximity without personal contact, interactions as a means to an end and where competition prevails over cooperation. Paul lightens the situation considerably with his own personal viewpoint. Jim Barron also has his own particular take on the streets. As well as fine portraits, we also see his ability to anticipate and catch moments. A very visual humour enlivens much of both Jim and Paul's work, but both in their different ways give us a penetrating and streetwise view of city life.
Mike Seaborne has concentrated on documenting the structures of the city, with detailed high-resolution images that are a valuable record and also a rewarding visual experience. Chris Dorley-Brown uses pairs of pictures to reflect the results of changing housing and planning policies on the environment. Some of his earlier pictures were taken as a commission for the London Borough of Hackney at a time when many tower blocks were under threat of demolition.
The panoramas by Peter Marshall use the stretched frame to explore various linear structures, both real and imaginary, including the Greenwich Meridian and the Docklands Light Railway and the extreme angle of view to probe city space.
The wide range of approaches exhibited here is an apt complement to the variety, fragmentation and decentralisation of the post-modern city in which we live.
Peter Marshall, October 2001
back to show text